Hilliard police driving away drug dealers

City of Hilliard sign
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HILLIARD, Ohio -- The Hilliard Division of Police says it's taking a three-pronged approach to keep drugs and violent crime from crossing the border from Columbus into the suburb west of the city. Lt. Doug Lightfoot said he remembers a time when Hilliard was more isolated.

"We talked to people and they would say, 'Wow, way out there in Hilliard?' And you don't hear that anymore," said Lt. Lightfoot.

Census data shows in the past 20-years, the population of Hilliard has more than doubled. Police said they're protecting the growing population by being proactive. Hilliard recently added a third drug-sniffing K9 to the force. The addition means a dog is on patrol for every shift.

Hilliard also created a special investigative unit to focus on crimes like prostitution, retail theft, and narcotics. Lt. Lightfoot said it didn't take long for drug dealers to get the message.

"Dealers refuse to come anywhere near Hilliard. We're told Hilliard is too "hot" because we have officers who are super proactive," said Lightfoot.

Crime Tracker 10 found the numbers to back up the claim. Since 2014, Hilliard police ramped up felony arrests. The number climaxed in 2016 when officers made 55-felony arrests. One year later, that number plummeted to 19-felony arrests. It's a reduction of 65-percent.

There is more evidence proactive policing is paying off. In 2015, police made 61 narcotics seizures. The number of seizures climbed to 70 in 2016, but fell to 45-seizures in 2017, a reduction of 35-percent.

Hilliard police said there is a fourth phase of proactive policing that includes infiltrating social media with images of drug arrests and seizures. The hope is to encourage a potential tipster living next door to a drug house to find the courage to come forward.

"Because I'm sure the people who live there don't want it," said Lt. Lightfoot. "More and more people are coming to us. They're willing to tell us what's going on and that helps us out."